Flashing Yellow Guidebooks Now Available in Travel-Friendly E-Book Format

At the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation, we have saying… Not knowing what you are seeing out the window on a train ride… is much like watching the Travel Channel with the audio turned off. No one is going to listen to their favorite travel show on mute… so why would you hit the rails and not know what you are seeing out the window? That would just be silly! Imagine all of the cool things that could be passing you by — and you wouldn’t even know it!

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To help educate passengers about the people, places, and history passing by, our APRHF Rail Rangers program has produced a total of 11 different railroad route guides that cover most of the passenger rail lines in the Upper Midwest. The book series entitled “Outside the Rails” is designed for passengers traveling between Chicago and Milwaukee, St. Paul, La Plata, Quincy, St. Louis, Carbondale, Indianapolis, and Detroit/Pontiac. The goal in writing and publishing the books was to give passengers a chance to know what they are seeing out the window… even when they don’t have one of the Rail Rangers’ Interpretive Guides aboard the train. Sit back, relax, open the book… and enjoy your train trip that much more! You will be amazed at how much more fun… and how much faster… a train trip will go when you are learning en route.

Originally, authors Robert and Kandace Tabern started their “Outside the Rails” book series in 2011 as a for-profit company. However, when they were appointed the Executive Director and Chicago Coordinator of the APRHF Rail Rangers program in 2015 — they decided to use all proceeds from book sales to help fund the group that provides educational programs on private rail excursions and the South Shore Line. Money raised from book sales (after the publisher is paid off) goes to fund such things as the handouts given to passengers on the train and at train shows the Rail Rangers attend… new props and informational displays… research trips for new routes… some travel expense reimbursement for volunteers… payment for the Rail Rangers’ websites and promotions… speaker upkeep and replacement… and much more. So, not only are you getting a fun book to learn about a route on your next train trip — you are helping support a wonderful 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who offers guided tours several times per month on various railroad lines.

A few years ago, “Outside the Rails” and the APRHF Rail Rangers decided to team up to cross-promote book series with Colorado-based author Eva Hoffman, who wrote her own series of railroad route guides under the “Flashing Yellow Guidebooks” title. In fact, “Flashing Yellow” served as the original inspiration for “Outside the Rails”! While “Outside the Rails” exclusively focuses on educating passengers about Upper Midwestern train routes, “Flashing Yellow” covers the various long-distance train lines in-depth, from Maine to California. Author Eva Hoffman has written route guidebooks for various Amtrak routes… including the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited, Northeast Corridor, and Downeaster. Right now there are 16 editions currently available… with books for the City of New Orleans and Capitol Limited coming in the near future.

Up until now, all 11 editions of “Outside the Rails” and 16 editions of “Flashing Yellow” were only available in hard book format. While passengers enjoyed this option and will continue to enjoy this option — we are happy to announce that all books are now available in an e-book PDF format. Yes… instead of carrying around pounds of heavy books… you can simply purchase the books that will cover your route on to your e-reader, laptop, Kindle, tablet, or other device. It will make enjoying the scenery that much lighter and travel-friendly! Many fans of both railroad route guide series have been requesting this for many years, but it wasn’t until recently that we found a reasonably-priced provider to host this service. In addition, there is special software provided by the host that marks the purchaser’s contact information so the PDF files can not be duplicated without it being trace-able back to the purchaser.

Both the traditional books and e-books are available exclusively through MIDWESTRAILS.COM. The purchase price allows the buyer to 5 downloads — so with one purchase — you could theoretically have a copy on your phone, laptop, Kindle, and two different tablets!

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As an incentive to purchase the e-book versions, for a limited time, “Outside the Rails” is offering its e-books at 25% off the hard copy version. That is something that is too good to be true for travelers planning their summer vacation.

* = There is no shipping and handling charged and sales taxes are built in to the sale prices of all e-books. Please be aware that our vendor, Sellfy, does charge a 7% handling fee for each book which is not reflected in these prices, but will be charged to the customer at the time of check-out.

The following editions of “Outside the Rails” are now available:

* Chicago to Milwaukee, WI ($15.00*)

* Chicago to St. Paul, MN – Abbreviated ($11.25*)

* Chicago to St. Paul, MN – Expanded ($26.25*)

* Chicago to La Plata, MO – Abbreviated ($7.25*)

* Chicago to La Plata, MO – Expanded ($26.25*)

* Chicago to Quincy, IL ($11.25*)

* Chicago to St. Louis, MO ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Carbondale, IL ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Indianapolis, IN/Riding the Hoosier Rails ($15.00*)

* Chicago to South Bend, IN/South Shore Line ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Detroit/Pontiac, MI ($15.00*)

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The following editions of “Flashing Yellow Guidebooks” is now available:

* St. Paul, MN to Glacier Park, MT ($14.00*)

* Glacier Park, MT to Seattle, WA/Portland, OR ($15.00*)

* Chicago, IL to Denver, CO ($10.00*)

* Denver, CO to Salt Lake City, UT ($12.00*)

* Salt Lake City, UT to San Francisco Bay Area, CA ($15.00*)

* Chicago to Kansas City, MO ($8.50*)

* Kansas City, MO to Albuquerque, NM ($14.00*)

* Albuquerque, NM to Los Angeles, CA ($12.00*)

* Chicago to San Antonio, TX ($20.00*)

* New Orleans, LA to San Antonio, TX ($15.00*)

* San Antonio, TX to Los Angeles, CA ($16.00*)

* Sacramento, CA to Los Angeles, CA ($10.00*)

* Seattle, WA to Sacramento, CA ($12.00*)

* New York City to Washington, DC ($14.00*)

* New York City to Boston, MA ($15.00*)

* Boston, MA to Coastal Maine/Downeaster ($8.50*)

We think you’ll agree that these books (and now e-books!) make great gifts for yourself and loved one who will be taking the train.

Thanks in large part to book sales… the APRHF Rail Rangers have been able to self-fund almost all of their expenses. In the three years the program has been operating, no money from the APRHF General Fund has been used for handouts, promotions, and many other expenses. This means money raised from memberships and donations to the General Fund are able to stay in La Plata and help with projects out there such as the Lookout Point Park and Exhibition of Amtrak History.

Get your favorite book OR e-book now at MIDWESTRAILS.COM!

So what’s next? When not actually on the train… The APRHF Rail Rangers will begin working on developing MP3 podcasts for train passengers. More details coming soon! This is a project that will likely take several years to fully complete — but we hope to begin rolling out the podcasts one-by-one… with the first one arriving in late spring or early summer 2018.

Mark Your Calendars: APRHF Rail Rangers Annouce Summer 2018 South Shore Schedule

This spring and summer will definitely be a busy one for the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation’s Rail Rangers program. Volunteer Interpretive Guides with our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization will be presenting more than one dozen on-board educational programs on the South Shore Line between the months of April and August. Get your calendar out and plan to join us for a trip or two! The best part is… there is no extra cost above your regular train ticket to participate. One-way adult fares are $13.50 or less… making it extremely affordable for families to travel and learn about the people, places, and history right outside their window between Chicago and South Bend. There’s no reservations needed either — just hop on and off where you want.

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For the past eight months now, volunteers with the APRHF Rail Rangers have been riding the South Shore Line between Chicago and South Bend, Indiana, on select weekend dates, sharing interesting facts with passengers about what they are seeing out their windows. The South South Line is one of the very last electric interurban railroads left anywhere in the United States; it connects Downtown Chicago with communities such as Hammond, Gary, Dune Park, Beverly Shores, Michigan City, Hudson Lake, and South Bend. The train line is quite scenic, passing through (or very close to) four National Park Service units — including the Illinois & Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor, Pullman National Monument, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, and the Kankakee River National Water Trail.

Rail Rangers Executive Director Robert Tabern says, “The Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, who runs the South Shore Line, has been incredibly supportive of having APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard. Their management team received such positive feedback from passengers about our programs that our initial six-month test period was extended into 2019 now. We are so glad the NICTD agrees with us — that passengers get so much more out of their rides when they know about the cool things out their window.”

Interpretive Guide Kathy Bruecker, who has narrated on several South Shore Line trips for the APRHF Rail Rangers adds, “I really enjoy telling people about the lesser-known stories along the route. In Michigan City, the route of the South Shore crosses where President Abraham Lincoln’s Funeral Train passed through on May 1, 1865. Residents of the town turned out by the thousands and built a giant arch to commemorate the slain leader. A bit down the line, there is a small lake that contains jelly fish. People don’t expect that in Indiana. These jelly fish are just about the size of nickles and contain very small stingers. No one really even know how they got there. There are even swamps we pass by in St. Joseph County that contain carnivorous plants. Even regular South Shore Line riders are stunned at some of the things out there they didn’t know about.”

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Passengers can learn about these stories and much more by riding with the APRHF Rail Rangers this coming spring and summer on the South Shore Line.

Interpretive Guides typically ride one round-trip between Chicago-Millennium Station and South Bend-Airport Station two to three Saturdays per month. Eastbound trips leave Downtown Chicago at 8:40am Central Time and arrive in South Bend at 12:10pm Eastern Time. Westbound trips leave South Bend at 1:05pm Eastern Time and return to Downtown Chicago at 2:40pm Central Time. Programs are presented on one car of the train – just look for the yellow Rail Rangers signs to see what car Guides are in. Seating is on a first come, first serve basis… no reservations are taken.

Upcoming Spring/Summer 2018 Program Dates are below:

APRIL: April 7*, April 14 & April 28

MAY: May 5* & May 19

JUNE: June 3* & June 16*

JULY: July 8* & July 14

AUGUST: August 11, August 20* (for a private group), August 25

(Dates with an asterisk indicate our ‘enhanced’ programs that feature our Junior Rail Rangers program and our APRHF Passport Program Cancellation Stamps)

Chicago Coordinator Kandace Tabern says, “We are really excited about the positive response travelers have had to our programs. We have even got contacted by several private travel groups in the past couple of months that want us to narrate for them. In March, we did a special private program for more than 40 members of the Duneland Seniors organization. At the end of August, we are doing another special private program for Farmers on the Bum, a group of friends from Appleton, Wisconsin who travel together every year somewhere. It’s really cool they heard about the Rail Rangers and want to check out the amazing South Shore Line.”

Passengers who travel on other South Shore Line departures when Interpretive Guides are not aboard, can still learn about the sites out their window through a route guide book written by the Rail Rangers. “Outside the Rails: A Rail Route Guide from Chicago to South Bend, IN”, which contains more than 100 pages of information, is available online at MidwestRails.com as both a regular hard copy book ($20) and a downloadable e-book PDF file ($15). We’re told a podcast version is even in the works for later this summer! Proceeds from the sale of route guides go toward funding the APRHF Rail Rangers’ program on the South Shore, including expenses for route guide sheets and other handouts, a wireless speaker system, and the insurance required by the NICTD. A limited number of route guidebooks are sometimes for sale on select South Shore Line excursions, too.

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The American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation began its on-board educational programs in 2012, co-sponsoring an Amtrak/National Park Service Trails & Rails route through Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri. In 2015, the APRHF’s Trails & Rails program transitioned into the APRHF Rail Rangers. The organization’s main focus is providing on-board educational programs on private rail excursions on historic private rail excursions across the Upper Midwest. Public programs on the South Shore launched on August 5, 2017.

For more information about the APRHF Rail Rangers, check out their websites, DunesTrain.com and RailRangers.org, or drop their management team an e-mail at info@railrangers.org. You can also connect via Facebook and Twitter.